With a look at some of the top stories making the news today, July 31 across your Caribbean-American community in South Florida, I’m…for CNW 90.

Today’s newscast is brought to you by the Florida Department of Health;

To help stop the spread of COVID-19, The Florida Department of Health in Broward County reminds everyone to practice social distancing, wash your hands often with soap and water and cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.

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Coming up in the newscast, USCIS experiences delay in printing work permits and green cards, St. Lucia and Dominica move to decriminalize marijuana and Bahamas announces additional lockdowns after spike in COVID-19 cases.

Now for the news in the detail

The USCIS has left hundreds of thousands of immigrants without their proper documents as the agency’s backlog for printing work permits and green cards have skyrocketed to over 150,000. The reason for the delays, it seems, is that the USCIS had a contract with an outside company to produce employment authorization documents (work permits) and green cards, which ended in June 2020. But rather than renew the contract, the USCIS decided to produce the cards in-house. Given the COVID-19 crisis and layoff’s of the agency, USCIS no longer has the financial or human resources to print the documents at the previous pace.

Given the circumstances, the USCIS Ombudsman issued a statement on July 21st to address the card production delays. The Ombudsman’s office is offering to assist those with approved cards who are awaiting production by sending a list of those individuals to the USCIS to verify the status of production. Those affected can visit the Ombudsman’s website and file a request.

In Local News, Broward County Office of Emergency Management says that COVID-19 testing sites may be closed beginning Thursday evening due to the threat of Potential Tropical Cyclone Nine to South Florida. The system is forecast to move over portions of Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Thursday. The Florida Division of Emergency Management forecast indicates that the cyclone could develop into a Tropical Storm with impacts to South Florida this weekend. If it does, all COVID-19 test sites will be closed until the storm passes. In Palm Beach County, officials announced that all testing sites will be closed for July 31st and August 1.

Now for Caribbean News, Grenada yesterday announced a new case of the coronavirus, after going six weeks without any new reported cases. Health authorities said that a passenger who arrived on the island from the United States last week had tested positive for COVID-19. The island now has 24 cases of the virus, with 23 recoveries. The unidentified person was among a group of Grenadians who returned via a charter Jetblue flight last Wednesday and that under the new health protocol, all persons arriving on an international flight must be placed in 14 days mandatory quarantine. The island’s Maurice Bishop International Airport have been open to regional and charter flights, with international commercial flights schedule to commence on August 1.

Over in The Bahamas, The Bahamas government says it will implement two additional weekend lockdowns as the country continues to record increases in its COVID-19 cases. On Tuesday, 65 new cases were confirmed in the country, setting a new single day record and bringing the total cases to 447. Prime Minister Hurbert Minnis announced that from July 31 to August 4 and again from August 7 to 10th, all islands of The Bahamas, excluding Grand Bahama, where a complete lockdown is currently in place, will be on lockdown. Only food stores, gas stations, pharmacies and water depots will be permitted to operate on the Saturdays for an 11 hour period. Minnis said that all individuals wishing to leave the country during the lockdown can do so by air or by boat.

Additionally, the country’s ministry of tourism has announced that no hotel or resort is permitted to allow guests to remain on its property without producing a negative COVID-19 test. This rules applies to both Bahamians and international travelers.

Meanwhile, The governments of St. Lucia and Dominica have both indicated their plans to decriminalize marijuana and establish a cannabis industry in their respective countries. Dominica’s legislation will provide among other things, for the decriminalization of possession of 28 grams of marijuana or less. Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerritt said that his administration will forge ahead on the matter of developing a revenue stream, and foreign exchange earnings from a marijuana industry. St. Lucia, on the other hand, has began drafting of legislation that would establish a cannabis industry in the island. The law will also included looking at personal use, religious use and medicinal use of marijuana. Authorization was also given to look into the expungment of records for people incarcerated for marijuana of “less than 30 grams”, without violence attached to the charge.

The two islands join other countries in the region like Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, The Cayman Islands and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, were marijuana is decriminalized.

For more information on these and other stories, visit Remember to pick up this week’s copy of our Caribbean National Weekly at your nearest Caribbean – American outlet.

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